A closer look at one of the gaming desks on the stage of the new Butler Esports Park. Photo by Lauren Hough.
MATTHEW CRANE | SPORTS CO-EDITOR | email@example.com
Almost a year after construction began, the new Butler Esports Park will open today to students and faculty. This multimillion-dollar project will finally be able to host classes, varsity and club competitions and provide a space for students and community members to gather whether it is at the cafe or for a live broadcasted event.
Butler Esports launched in 2017, but today will feel like a rebirth of the program. The new space aids in the advancement of the Butler Esports model.
The model follows the three C’s of community, curriculum and competition. With classes taking place in the Park, students can experience firsthand how esports plays into the curriculum.
Nathan Duke, manager of esports programs and facility operations, has been with Butler Esports since he was hired in November of 2021 and helped co-teach an esports class last semester.
“Obviously being a university, we want to make sure that we’re educating and preparing people for the future ahead,” Duke said. “Esports is a big part of that future ahead and being able to use this space to get students the hands-on practical experience, whether it’s event technologies or any of the skilled trades that are picked up within our esports minor, [is] very beneficial.”
The advanced production capabilities in the Park provide students with a unique opportunity for hands-on learning in a state of the art facility.
“We can elevate our varsity productions to an ESPN-like level,” Duke said. “The ability to come in and pivot on a dime and have students doing broadcast graphics, directing, working reception, being a space attendant [and] learning how to troubleshoot technical problems. We’re going to be expanding a lot and our net to be able to cover what the program is capable of will just keep growing.”
Many universities are now offering esports with 175 universities having teams at the varsity level and because of this spike in demand, Butler decided to add an esports minor to the College of Communication curriculum in 2021. The first student to graduate with the minor graduated in spring 2022.
With the curriculum aspect factored in, many people wonder if competition is as strong of a focus and what the importance of winning is to the program.
Junior marketing major Matthew Hafele is the vice president of content for Butler Esports and an officer for Butler’s club esports team where competition is key.
“Competition is one of the main pillars of Butler Esports,“ Hafele said. “Although we exist on a casual level and strive to be open to anyone and everyone in the community, at the end of the day our teams want to win tournaments and leagues just like any other competitive sports team.”
This desire for competition helped lead Hafele to the position he is in today.
“For me personally, I played baseball for 15 years and when coming to college sought other avenues to express that competitive passion,” Hafele said. “I have always enjoyed gaming and as a result, I naturally gravitated towards Butler Esports.”
The competitive nature of the teams has helped build a community of gaming for Butler students and will also help fit the needs of the local community.
Butler Esports coordinator Megan Danaher was hired in August and is looking forward to working on the community engagement side of the program.
“Community is super important when it comes to gaming and esports,” Danaher said. “Traditionally, a lot of gamers have been very antisocial in a way. But providing the opportunity for students to be able to come together and enjoy things they love is something that is huge.”
Danaher explained that the opening of the Park and its location in the heart of Indianapolis is a great way for the local community to get out and try things they have never seen or been involved in before. She also mentioned the importance of the space for kids.
“When I was younger I would have loved to have a space like this, “Danaher said. “I would have been able to play on software that could handle the kind of games I wanted to play. I also wanted to be able to meet people who are just like me. This is a way to give back to the community.”
The Park will open to the public on Oct. 21 and people will be able to watch gameplay on big screens or play a variety of games themselves.
Butler Esports has held community activities throughout its history including hosting kids from the MLK Center this summer. They are looking to continue with partnerships and events such as workshops that can provide benefits to the community.
With the esports industry expanding all around the world, Butler aims to become a model for collegiate esports. The opening of the Park is a step closer to placing Butler Esports among the most renowned programs.